Hoosiers get their chance to catch Rebs

Hoosiers get their chance to catch Rebs

By Bob Hammel, H-T Sports Editor

March 27, 1987

From the March 27, 1987 Bloomington Herald-Telephone

NEW ORLEANS – While Indiana stayed in Bloomington Thursday for such routines of life as classes and practice in the familiarity of Assembly Hall, the rest of the 1987 Final Four was in New Orleans. It’s a fast city, and it may have crossed some Hoosier fans’ minds that the more time No. 1-ranked Nevada-Las Vegas spends in New Orleans – and preferably in the city’s legendary French Quarter – the better. New Orleans columnist Peter Finney gave that thought a perspective.

“Bourbon Street doesn’t figure to corrupt this bunch. They’ve got a lot more neon back home.”

UNLV is a team that plays to its reputation. The Runnin’ Rebels arrived in town behind a stern-blaring, red light-flashing police escort. UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian raved about the welcome (“We’ve never had anything like this before”), and Rebel starter Jarvis Basnight agreed with a smile. “Usually,” Basnight said, lights and siren in mind, “they’re chasing us.”

This is a season when the whole country has been chasing UNLV. It becomes Indiana’s turn in the spotlighted game of the Final Four’s semifinal round Saturday afternoon (6:12 p.m., Ch. 8).

The final UPI coaches’ poll this year made this a collision of No. 1 (UNLV) and No. 2. The last time Indiana got involved in one of those things also was in tournament play, also was in the state of Louisiana. It was in 1976, and No. 1 Indiana dumped Marquette, 66-55, in the regional at Baton Rouge on its way to the national championship.

Hoosier coach Bob Knight admits he has had a simulation problem this week in trying to get his team ready for UNLV.

“Yeah,” Knight said, “because they’re so quick. They go up and down the floor and go after the ball so quickly.”

The Hoosiers can get a concept of most of the Nevada-Las Vegas potential by remembering their two games with Iowa this year.

Both Iowa and UNLV – teams that met in the West Regional final Sunday, one of them assured of being the Hoosiers’ first-round Final Four opponent – run on offense and press constantly on defense.

Iowa prefers to go inside with its game, and – even though husky center Armon Gilliam is the Rebels’ leading scorer and their conference’s MVP – UNLV gets much of its punch from three-point shooting.

“They’re more inclined to shoot the ball (than Iowa),” Knight said.

“And they chase the ball down better. That’s the really dangerous thing with this team. When they shoot it and miss, they chase it down and shoot it again.

“And I think overall they are quicker. And just about as deep. I thought Iowa was the deepest team we saw this year, and they very well might be, but these people are just about that deep.”

For all the depth, the primary challenge of the Indiana defense is clear: stopping Gilliam inside (he leads the Rebels with a 22.9 scoring average) and cutting down on the three-point openings for shooters Freddie Banks (19.0 per game) and Gerald Paddio (13.3). UNLV is also getting 10.3 per game from sixth-man Gary Graham and 9.3 from Basnight. Tarkanian isn’t sure that represents true scoring balance.

From the March 27, 1987 Bloomington Herald-Telephone

“To get to the Final Four, you have to have great chemistry, if you don’t have good balance,” Tarkanian said.

“When you’re determining balance, you really have to qualify that. We have a point guard (Mark Wade, 4.8 per game) who doesn’t shoot at all, but I think he’s very valuable to our ball club. In fact, I prefer him to a lot of guards who shoot a lot.”

Under any standard, Indiana has scoring balance. It’s the first team Knight ever has had with all five starters averaging in double figures. The marks range from 10.8 for Keith Smart to 21.7 for Steve Alford, with Daryl Thomas (15.9), Dean Garrett (11.2) and Rick Calloway (13.0) in between.

“Balance is something that you can’t contrive,” Knight said. “You can’t just say, ‘I want balance.’

“We want an inside game, but I don’t want Garrett taking the same number of shots that Steve takes.”

Even with the three-point rule this year, Alford’s own scoring is down just a bit (from 22.5 last year).

He also is not getting as many shots (14.8 per game compared to 16.3 last year), nor hitting the basket as well (he’s shooting .470 to .556 last year).

Each of those figures may reflect life under the three-point rule.

“They’re picking him up higher,” Knight said of Hoosier opponents.

“The thing is I have just seen him get held and pushed around so much all year. It’s much more evident with him because he doesn’t score in a variety of ways. He’s got to work to get open. We cannot give him the ball when he isn’t open and expect him to score with it.

“We could put one hell of a tape together of his being held and pushed.”

Tarkanian said Banks will start the game on Alford, and the job will be passed around to keep a fresh man on him.

Providence and Syracuse get a chance to prepare for their game (3:42 p.m., Ch. 8) without the spotlight that Indiana and UNLV get. There’s a whole lot less room for the imagination in a Providence-Syracuse game than in Indiana-UNLV, because Providence and Syracuse, as Big East partners, already have played twice. Syracuse won both of those but even though Syracuse spilled North Carolina its last time out for one of the school’s biggest basketball victories ever, Providence is considered the first game’s “hot” team because of three blowout victories in tournament play – over Alabama-Birmingham (at UAB), Alabama and Georgetown.